Instructor of the Month: Sounthisack (Sack) Phommachanh (National University of Laos)

Sack
 

This May, our Instructor of the Month is a lecturer in the faculty of Engineering at the National University of Laos (NUOL). He’s recognized by his peers for his innovative ability to create an interactive classroom and for inspiring other instructors to implement MS2W approaches in their classrooms to positively impact as many students as possible. He joined the MS2W Network in 2016 and has since become a vital member of the MS2W Network by reshaping his classes into his students’ favorite places to learn and sharing feedback among his peers on the MS2W portal.

Sack also promotes institutional change by involving administrators at NUOL with his plans to reshape education. His dedication to transform learning at NUOL never ceases to impress the people around him, especially his students.

“Sack always puts extra effort and creativity into what he’s learned from the Professional Development course, which makes his class so special and unique,” confirmed the focal point person for NUOL.

 

What “learner-centered” means

“Before MS2W, my class had a teacher-centered approach…the students were not really understanding the content or interested in learning in my class.”

Although the term “learner-centered” seems straightforward, it can be somewhat difficult to reflect this concept in educators’ teaching approaches. Before applying this change, Sack’s students didn’t seem to be fully grasping the content of his lessons. However, Sack was determined to improve his teaching.

“The MS2W Advanced Certification Course gave me ideas to use and encouraged me to adapt the Sourcebook in my class. Sometimes I misunderstood the concepts but when I shared my ideas through the online course, I could see what I did wrong and how to improve.”

Sack keeps learners’ interests in mind and encourages students to commit the concepts he teaches to mind through the “learner-centered” approach and facilitating hands-on learning.

“We need to adapt the class and the Sourcebook to match each other and find the best solution for each different classroom. The focus should always be on the learners…The Sourcebook is great but is better with a little customized touch.”
 

Sack 2

 

From educators to learning facilitators

“You can’t just think of yourself as a teacher or a lecturer. This position is more meaningful and profound than just giving lessons to students. You actually facilitate their learning in the most effective and creative way possible so they understand and are able to apply theories or concepts to their real lives.”

Keeping in mind that he has to make learning a collaborative process between himself and his students, Sack gathers techniques from the MekongSkills2Work Advanced Certification Courses, where he learns how to manage his classroom using learner-centered instructional methods such as work-based learning and project-oriented learning. He excels in his facilitation and classroom design skills, making him not only able to implement these approaches in his classrooms but also able to create new approaches of his own, adapted to students’ interests and the institution’s characteristics.

“You have to think of how knowledge can be effectively delivered to students in a 50-minute class. It’s not easy. Lecturing can explain concepts thoroughly, but doesn’t guarantee that the students completely understand the lessons. Because of these challenges, I try to facilitate the class’s learning in the most effective way possible.”

Sack says that the most rewarding aspects of his teaching are the appreciation and cooperativeness he receives from the direct beneficiaries of his efforts. He involves his students in his lesson plans as much as possible, making sure that they are experiencing the best possible education tailored to their needs.

“I had to decide how to [teach] in my own way and [my students] tell me what worked for them and what didn’t.… By getting feedback from the students, I improved my classes.”
 

Sack 3

 

When learning is fun

Through learner-centered approaches, Sack has been developing what is called an “interactive classroom” in NUOL. Sack’s classrooms are filled with activities that require students to contribute their ideas to the main theme of the lessons. Students figure out answers and solutions through higher-level thinking activities and workshops boosting the classroom dynamic, which makes learning a self-built process and, most importantly, fun.

“Since implementing ideas from the MS2W Sourcebook in my class, my students are more confident to talk about the technical concepts and share their ideas. They actively come up with well-thought out arguments and debate with their peers when there is disagreement. They actively exchange and express ideas, which makes the class more fun.”